While schools may be on summer break, CKC Good Food is still hard at work helping clients with summer meals and preparing for next year.
A big summer responsibility is providing 24/7 food service at three camp locations for Girl Scouts River Valleys. Camp Lakamaga in Marine on the St. Croix and Camp Elk River are resident camps, where campers come for five full days of camp during the week and mom and daughter duos come for two days one night on the weekends. Camp Singing Hills in Waterville hosts campers for two days and one night throughout the week.
Summer Camp Operations Manager Joe Swinney for CKC Good Food started gearing up for summer camps last fall by planning menus and food orders, identifying site supervisors for the three sites and recruiting the remaining 22 CKC Good Food team members for summer work. Site supervisors are Sherry Macioch at Camp Elk River, Jason Wilson at Camp Lakamaga and Matt Haase at Camp Singing Hills.
Prior to the campers’ arrival on Monday, June 12, Joe and Matt, both of whom are morning chefs in CKC Good Food’s central commissary during the school year, cooked for staff training. About 100 staff members from four Girl Scout camp sites gathered at the Elk River camp for two weeks of intensive training. As many are young adults, including some international college students who are in the U.S. for the summer, Joe and Matt offered meals that would have broad appeal to the staffers, such as avocado toast, yogurt parfaits, and curry-style spaghetti and meatballs.
Unlike CKC Good Food’s menus provided to schools, camp menus do not need to conform to federal nutritional requirements. This gave Joe more latitude in planning his two-week menu cycle for campers.
“The camp has only one true guideline: that the campers are happy,” Joe said. “I’ve had total free rein in creating menus, focusing on good, home-cooked-style meals.”
He and his team are providing breakfast, lunch, dinner with dessert, and two snacks a day seven days a week to nearly 400 people each week. All the meals are served family-style and “de-constructed,” giving everyone the freedom to choose meal components they like.
“We’re not compiling the dishes and forcing them to eat what we make,” he explained.
Campers can look forward to less traditional menu items like chicken tinga bowl, and beef and broccoli, which includes meatballs with roasted fresh broccoli and onion, and a savory sauce. More traditional favorites include hot dogs and baked beans, chicken strips and fries, macaroni & cheese with hot dog pieces, and cheeseburgers. Campfire meals with hot dogs and s’mores are provided regularly at Camp Singing Hills and periodically at the other two camps.
Joe has adapted some student-favorite menu items from CKC Good Food’s school menus for camp. To the orange chicken, he has added spice and roasted peppers for more flavor and color. The sweet and sour chicken recipe was tweaked by replacing the pineapple – an allergen for one staffer – with mango.
Dietary restrictions have proven to be the biggest hurdle in menu planning for camps. Joe has sourced as much as possible from CKC Good Food’s mainline food distributors and sought specialty items, such as vegan eggs and lactose-free cheese, to accommodate those with allergies through grocery stores.
When the team is serving only camp staff, they have the liberty of subbing a meal more appealing to young adults, such as a chipotle bowl or avocado toast.
Cooking in the camps’ kitchens is a bit different than cooking at CKC Good Food’s central commissary. Rather than the high-tech Rationale iCombi Pro ovens, the team is working with old-style convection ovens, heat-and-serve cabinets, flat-tops and gas stoves. This has been an adjustment, mostly in terms of cooking duration, but most of the team previously cooked on similar equipment prior to working at CKC Good Food’s central commissary or in schools’ kitchens.
Like cooking for school food service programs, camp food service takes precise time management.
“The camps have a strict time schedule,” Joe said. “If we are 5-10 minutes late serving a meal, that could mess up the rest of the day’s schedule. Time management is crucial for us.”
The team has a list of items to prep and cook but the order in which they are prepped and cooked are different than the central commissary. In the commissary, while something is cooking, the team is prepping pans for the next day. At camp, while breakfast is cooking, the team is prepping lunch. While lunch is cooking, they’re working on snacks or dinner.
Providing camp food service seven days a week will keep CKC Good Food team members busy through August 14, after which they’ll gear up for a new school year.